Decided underdogs as a No. 8 seed but hardly bugged by the moment, Folsom High School jolted the Northern California basketball season right off its axis on Friday night.
Trailing by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter against the top-ranked team in the state, according to CalHi Sports, the Bulldogs stormed back by scoring 14 of the final 19 points in regulation to force overtime. Once there, defense and four swish free throws by dynamo 5-foot-7 guard Eljay Gallegos lifted Folsom past Salesian of Richmond 75-70 in a NorCal Open Division opener.
Mason Forbes, a 6-foot-8 center headed to Harvard, had a triple-double for Folsom (26-5) with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocked shots, and guards Isaiah Jones and Jayce McCain had 17 and 16, respectively. DeShawn Lynch added nine for Folsom, which advances to the semifinals on Tuesday against a familiar foe: Sheldon.
The fourth-seeded Huskies needed overtime to hold off No. 5 Memorial of Fresno, 67-65.
Salesian (30-2) had its 22-game winning streak snapped. It came in ranked as high as third in the country.
All of this from a Folsom team coached by a guy who wasn't sure his team belonged in the Open. Not that Mike Wall didn't think his team could compete. But the longtime coach wonders if section semifinal losers should be automatic locks for the Open, designed for the best of the best.
"It's almost a punishment for a team's success," Wall said last week of the Open Division concept. "We know we can compete. But if you have too much success, you're going to get put in the Open even if you don't reach (a section final)."
Here's what has become the norm: The Sac-Joaquin Section has arrived. It has produced four teams in the Open for three successive seasons. Modesto Christian beat Bellarmine of San Jose on 66-53 on Friday and Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland eliminated Capital Christian 78-67.
Turns out, the seeding committee got it right, and then Folsom did something about it with the biggest win in program history. And that's a history that includes the 1985 Division III state championship under coach Stan Harms and recent section titles and a NorCal D-II championship under Wall.
And this: It was Folsom's first road win in a NorCal playoff under Wall, snapping an 0-for-5 skid.
"This is the true top of the top division," Wall said. "It's not the second tier or third. It's the very top of the top, and it was a great win. Short of winning a section, it's the best feeling I've had after a game. Our guys gutted it out. We got down 10, but we didn't panic. Our guys just don't panic, and that's something I've learned.
"And if you don't get in the Open, you don't get a chance to have this special feeling."
As soon as the Folsom players calmed down from their euphoria in the locker room, they learned their next opponent would Sheldon.
The Huskies beat Folsom in overtime in a section semifinal on Feb. 28. "We just wanted a rematch," Wall said.